Many Warriors fans are in full refs-must-die mode after Saturday’s loss at the Los Angeles Lakers.
In the 118-116 loss, the referees called the Warriors for 16 more fouls than the Lakers, leading to a 50-16 disparity in free throws. That ‘s a big difference
Certainly, there were some questionable calls. (The Steph Curry foul on Steve Blake. Jarrett Jack getting knocked to the ground hard without a call. The contact on the left-hand layup by Klay Thompson, when Pau Gasol fell into the cameras, that should’ve been a three-point play.) And you can easily argue the referees were too much of a factor in the game.
But is that why the Warriors’ lost? Let’s look at this with a closer lense
* Dwight Howard took 22 of those 50. Part of the reason for the high free throw number was the Warriors’ obvious plan to foul Dwight instead of letting him get an easy basket. That not only sends Dwight to the line, but it puts the Warriors in the penalty. You can call it a good strategy, except he made 14 of them
* The Lakers took 16 free throws in the fourth quarter. They made 11. So they got 11 points off about 8 possessions. That’s just a third of their 33 fourth-quarter points.
Let’s just say the Warriors aren’t called for fouls and they just played those possessions. Well, Los Angeles shot 64.3 percent in the fourth quarter. How much would they have scored on those 8 possessions against the Warriors D? 12? 14? They might’ve made out better with the free throws
* The Lakers racked up 38 points from the free throw line. When they weren’t at the line, they shot 51.5 percent: 34 of 66. They made 12 of 25 from 3 (48 percent). That resulted in 80 points NOT FROM FREE THROWS.
Coming into the game, the Lakers were shooting 46 percent from the field and 35.4 from 3-point range. If the Warriors just hold the Lakers to their average, Los Angeles would have only made about 19 of their 2-pointers and about 9 of their 3-pointers (I rounded up). That amounts to 65 points not from free throws. Now we’re looking at the Lakers getting about 103 instead of 118.
* The Warriors took 97 shots (that doesn’t include free throws) and 29 of them were in the paint. That means roughly 70 percent of the Warriors’ shots were outside shots. Conversely, the Lakers took 66 shots (not including free throws). But they also took 29 shots in the paint. That means roughly 56 percent of their shots were from outside. We all know the calls go to the aggressor.
Clearly, the refs were calling it tight. The Lakers milked it by playing inside-out. The Warriors stayed outside.
* The Warriors rank No. 2 in the league in personal fouls committed. Is that because the referees job them every game? Or is it because they are a team of suspect individual defenders who compensate by reaching and slapping, trying to force turnovers? Or is it because they have gone small a lot, leaving them often helpless against bigger, physical players? Or is it because they, lately, are habitually not where they need to be, late on their rotations and unable to do much but foul?
***** In my opinion, the refs usually make the right call. I’m often amazed at how much replay bares them out. The problem often is the lack of consistency and skewed context. Technically, Barnes did foul Kobe. Hand-checked him when he made his move. But they don’t call that all the time. Replays showed Curry MIGHT HAVE reached through the screen and grabbed Blake. But in the context of time, situation, you don’t call that. He was 40 feet from the basket *****
As with any game, a number of things factor in. Sometimes, the refs make bad calls, or call the game too tight, or let too much slide. But also, sometimes the altitude is an issue. Sometimes you’re playing the fourth game in five nights. Sometimes you have travel issues and barely sleep. Sometimes guys just don’t have Sometimes the fans are so loud you can’t hear. Sometimes players catch a cold. Sometimes the other team is just feeling it, or are ice cold.
Those are all things that are out of the control of the Warriors. It all just comes with a season. The real story is how this team plays. All those variable are part of it. But they are just that — variables. What really matters are the constants. I believe Mark Jackson knows that. Which is why though he may not like officiating, you don’t see him leaning on that to pacify his wounded feelings.
Remember, they are a no excuse basketball team.